“Stay, Mommy. Just tonight. I will go to sleep, I promise. Just stay.”
On the night before you started kindergarten, that was your plea. You sweetly grabbed my hand and begged me to cuddle with you just a little longer.
Over the years, you have had this same request many times. Some nights I would give you “two more minutes.” But many nights, I would tell you all the things that I still needed to do to be able to go to bed myself. You seemed to understand that, as you hadn’t asked me to stay for a little while. But you did that night.
It was like you knew that Mommy didn’t want to go — that I wanted to stay holding on to my little baby for as long as I could. And that I didn’t want to walk out of that room because I knew that once you woke up you would be heading to kindergarten, and you would no longer be all mine.
And I wasn’t ready for that.
Oh, we were ready for kindergarten in the sense of having everything together. I had completed the mountains of paperwork and paid the dues. You had been through kindergarten screening, assessment and open house.
We had our special mommy and daughter day where we picked out all your supplies, your new school shoes and even a book bag with your favorite thing in the world on it – LOL Dolls.
I had an oversize T-shirt made that read “Class of 2031” so we could take yearly pictures of you in it up through high school. I even had that trendy chalk board and raided your sidewalk chalk for a piece that was nearly new and had a skinny enough tip to try to write all the important information on it.
With about three times the amount of food you ever eat at one sitting, I had packed your lunch. I just knew how picky you were and wanted to make sure you weren’t going to go hungry. And I even bought cute, little cut-out heart notes so I could remind you daily of my love for you.
We had each placed our kisses into each others’ hands as we read “The Kissing Hand,” prayers had been said, lullabies sang, and you were all tucked in.
We had you all set and ready to go out and rock this kindergarten world.
But I still wasn’t ready.
You see, the moms who have been through sending their baby off to kindergarten tell you it will be fine, and your baby will do great. And, while that is true, no one tells you just how hard it will be. And it’s hard.
I mean the weeks of preparation and knowing this day would come put a tight knot in my chest — sometimes bringing me to deep breaths of prayer and other times bringing me to tears. As ready as we were on the outside, nothing emotionally prepared me for the next chapter of life that I couldn’t stop from coming.
And maybe that was my biggest fear — rolling into the new normal. And knowing all too well that normal is what this school process would become.
By this time next week, you will know that you need to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast and brush your teeth. Then you will confidently walk onto that big, yellow bus like you have been doing it for years. It will just become your new daily routine, and you will be that much closer to going out into this world and that much further from me.
So, as I laid there that night with you, I just kept staring into those big blue eyes. They were the same blue eyes that I stared into for many nights when you were a baby as I marked a visible path in the carpet while dragging my tired feet, patting your bottom and praying that you would finally fall asleep.
But I hadn’t thought about those long nights for a long time – just as I am sure I will soon forget about the anxiety of you starting kindergarten.
Eventually, I too will grow comfortable with this new normal. And I am sure that it won’t be long until I will remind you of all the reasons why I cannot lay with you for hours at bedtime.
But, I’m begging you to invite me anyhow. There will be many nights where I don’t even realize that I need to hold you just as bad as you need held by me. So sweet girl, no matter how old you get or what grade you are in, please don’t ever stop asking me to stay.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.